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The path that Adrián González took from musical theater performer to Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC (PPMW) board chair twists and turns, but at each step he has been driven by a clarity of purpose and deep commitment to community. Today, he draws on that sense of purpose to engage others in supporting PPMW’s work, focused on health care access and equity. 

Connecting with LGBTQ advocacy 

As a young man, González left his home and family in Monterrey, Mexico to attend a musical theater conservatory in New York City. Intent on a career in show business, González fully immersed himself in the life of an artist and traveled all over the world for performances, including to Japan, France, and Portugal. While this life of “hustle,” as González describes it, was fulfilling throughout his twenties, he also craved stability. 

“I wanted to have a steady income, I wanted to have more certainty,” he shares. “It became apparent to me, particularly with my friends who were making it on Broadway at the time, that the lifestyle doesn’t really change throughout the years. The high of a successful run on Broadway is always followed by months of auditions and waiting for callbacks. I learned then that my tolerance for the unknowns associated with living a bohemian life is lower than I anticipated.” 

One day, after a rehearsal in New York City, he came across a Human Rights Campaign canvasser. Speaking with them, he says, “I discovered that there was a full universe of human rights work, and particularly LGBTQ work, happening.” He felt a calling to pursue LGBTQ advocacy, with a focus on making advocacy organizations financially sustainable. 

González decided to study business at the University of Sydney, with a focus on government and international relations, social enterprises, non-profit management, and international development. After graduating, he secured a position with the Human Rights Campaign, the very organization that had set him on this path. This role brought González to Washington, DC — home to PPMW — where he’d soon transition into a career in international development.

Left to right: María Jose “Majo” Sanabria (Board Member), Adrián González (Board Chair), Eden Shiferaw (Governance Committee Chair)

Building a DEI career

Another defining moment came for González in June 2016, after the tragic mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were killed. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, González was deeply affected by the horrific event. “I remember the following Monday after the shooting, just being shocked, processing, and not in a good space. No one said anything at the office. It was a ‘business as usual day,’ and I could barely function. I felt really, really numb.” 

But later, at a DC vigil held in honor of the Pulse victims, González saw many of his co-workers and their families and came to another defining realization. “People around me actually care, and care enough so that they went out of their way to be here,” he said, “but they still, for whatever reason, don’t feel like they can say anything at work.” 

González was determined to change that. He spent the next three years immersed in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at his workplace, fostering a space where employees could feel safe and open in discussing issues that affect themselves and their communities. 

During that time, González earned a DEI certificate through Georgetown University, and attended sessions held by Out and Equal, an organization advocating for LGBTQIA+ equality in the workplace. He wrote his new dream — DEI director — on a Post-It and within three years he shifted from his informal DEI work into a full-fledged career in the field. Now an established DEI professional, González serves as senior manager of diversity, equity, and inclusion at a financial corporation.

L to R: Board members Karla Dominguez Gonzalez, Eden Shiferaw, Michele Crumes, María Jose “Majo” Sanabria, COO Takina Wilson , and Adrián González

Making a local impact 

As González was progressing through his career, finding his path in work to build a more equitable society, so was María Jose “Majo” Sanabria, a board member at PPMW. One day, the two met, and González quickly learned that he and Sanabria had been “basically running parallel tracks. She knew my friends from Monterey, and I knew her friends from DC,” he says.

The two became fast friends, and when Sanabria presented an opportunity to serve on the PPMW board, González felt the same spark he’d felt in New York when he first took an interest in human rights, and again after the Pulse shooting, as he saw before him another way to have a deep impact on people’s lives. “I think you can see the pattern here,” he jokes. “I literally consumed all of the PPMW website. I went and found all of the annual reports, read all of the IRS filings.” 

González had spent years working to ensure access to essential health care for people from communities across the globe. Now, in the invitation to join the PPMW board, González saw a chance to support people in his own Washington, DC community. 

He was also motivated to support PPMW’s work by what he describes as “nerve-wracking” past experiences seeking health care for himself, as a young gay man in New York City. He recalls the “lonely and isolating” feelings of not knowing where or how to seek affirming, compassionate health care, or of visiting clinics that felt abandoned. “None of the people that cared for me, like my parents or my family, were able to point me in any direction,” he remembers. “I wasn’t even out yet.” 

Knowing about Planned Parenthood, González shares, could’ve made seeking care much less of a daunting experience at that time in his life. “I see Planned Parenthood as a safe haven for queer people,” he explains. “Reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights, at the intersection of bodily autonomy, are one and the same. And what’s driving the erosion of our rights is that same energy, of someone trying to decide what people can and cannot do with their bodies.

Adrián González speaks at the 2023 PPMW Impact Gala

Finding fulfillment

Now serving as PPMW board chair, González continues to find tremendous fulfillment in the board’s collective efforts to help the PPMW team provide, protect, and expand access to high-quality, compassionate health care for all people. He describes his board service as “the most meaningful work that I do during the week.” 

González finds that this fulfillment is rooted in the values with which he was brought up. “I was raised in a space where giving back to the community was just part of what we place a lot of value in,” he says. “My parents, my grandparents, my siblings, we all try to find ways to give back. That in itself is very fulfilling to me: knowing that I am using my time in a way that generates good.” 

Another rewarding aspect of board service, González says, is learning. “I’m in a continual state of growing,” he shares, citing knowledge he has gained about the connections between primary care, reproductive health, and reduced maternal mortality. He values PPMW’s educational mission just as he values the organization’s health care and advocacy missions.

González enthusiastically shares the story of PPMW’s Promotoras de Salud, a group of Spanish-speaking peer educators who provide vital information to their communities about sexual and reproductive health, rights, and services. As a Latino man, González feels a deep connection to the service Promotoras provide to their communities. 

“Particularly knowing the hardships that many Hispanic people have to go through to live here and to be in the U.S, the Promotoras program really hits close to home for me,” he says. “I love seeing Latinas who are leaders in their communities, investing in themselves, basically pouring time out of their lives into learning, to then be beacons of hope in their own communities.” 

Expanding compassionate care

Looking ahead at the board’s priorities for the remainder of 2024, González hopes to further establish PPMW as a place of sanctuary for those whose access to care is restricted, threatened, and altogether banned. “We’re going into an election year, and the situation for abortion access in the U.S. is critical,” he says. “So for us, the biggest priority is to continue to be a safe haven, and to provide access for those who no longer have access to essential health care in their home states.” 

To accomplish this goal, González explains, the board is focusing its efforts on supporting PPMW’s growth, particularly in serving communities in Northern Virginia and continuing to expand the Abortion Access Fund, which has enabled hundreds of patients to access abortion care. Even as PPMW grows, however, it will continue to stay focused on its core mission, González emphasizes — providing equitable access to high-quality, compassionate care — and this is his principal point of pride as board chair. 

“I am proud to represent PPMW because of how we’re on the front lines, and how we care for our patients,” he reflects. “It’s the compassionate care. It’s that all are welcome."

To support access to abortion care for both local patients and patients traveling hundreds of miles to reach PPMW, make a donation to the Abortion Access Fund.

Tags: Health Equity, Leadership

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